See Them Die

Ed McBain is one of those authors that continue to amaze me. Each of his 87th Precinct novels (which formed the basis for such groundbreaking televisions shows like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue) work on you like a corkscrew, twisting and burrowing its way through your guts. It's visceral, it's gritty, and it's poetry at the same time. For McBain the city is a living, breathing entity, and the words he uses to describe it are the words you use to describe a lover is all her aspects.

See Them Die follows the same path that many of the other 87th Precinct books do, but there are a few differences. Most notable is the hook of everything happening over the course of a single day. You're told right away that 2 characters are going to die. You don't know who will die until the events of the day are finally played out. In addition, the book focuses on one of the lesser characters of the series, Andy Parker, a mediocre detective scraping by day to day on a fuel of anger, fear, and bigotry. One of the revelations of the book is a peek into why Parker is the way he is. His interactions with the coffee shop keeper Luis reflect the tenuous relationships between the barrio and the more affluent portions of the city.

The plot centers on a manhunt for a robber and murderer named Pepe Miranda, idolized by the young street gangs and young punks looking for a hero of their own kind. Over the course of a single day, many different characters will come together on the street where Miranda is hiding out, and what they discover, both about the people they meet and themselves, illuminate the many types of relationship a city can have with itself.

Maybe not my favorite book of the series, but it mixes up the standard storylines and allows a brief glimpse into the motivations for one of the more colorful characters in the series, so See Them Die gets a plus in my book.